Speaking on the morning of the 1st, Kim Jong Eun chose the launch of satellite Gwangmyungsung-3 as the greatest achievement of his brief tenure and a symbol of what can be achieved by a united North Korean people. Unlikely as it may seem, North Korea, having spent weeks hammering home news of the successful launch, apparently hopes now to use it as a catalyst to drive the broader economy and spur innovation.
Sources from inside the country have all told Daily NK that the message from local Party cadres about the launch is that it was “ the happiest of occasions.” Sources also report things like “The solemn mood of the General’s mourning period was totally eliminated by the celebrations over the missile.”
“There are constant commemorative videos, celebratory meetings and poetry readings on TV to celebrate the success of the satellite launch,” one such source reported. “Cadres assigned to factory enterprises and farms are going on about the ‘spirit that conquered outer space’ and are signing up to resolutions calling for another special event in Chosun for this year.”
The source confirmed that, as has been clear even from outside, North Korean TV, radio and print media have been wallpapered with articles celebrating the successful rocket launch since it happened on December 12th. For example, Rodong Shinmun reported on the 4th, “Successfully launching the second Gwangmyeongsung-3 shows off military-first Chosun’s rapid movement toward becoming an intellectually and economically powerful country, and shows once again that if Chosun decides to do something, it does it.”
101 scientists involved in the development of the satellite have also been handed state honors, a fact that has been widely reported. In addition, a man widely presumed to have been the head of the 2nd Academy of Natural Sciences, which is thought to have led the launch project, has been spotted alongside Kim Jong Eun at multiple state events.
However, the nationwide celebratory fervor has significantly declined since the launch, as one might expect. Despite excitement at the slogan “conquering outer space,” people have returned to an apathy born of the truism that “conquering outer space has nothing to do with my survival.”
The source, who hails from North Hamkyung Province, explained, “The pride we had at the launch has died down. People are asking one another ‘why do we live in such a dark place with so little electricity when we are a nation that can conquer outer space?’”
In addition, the source went on, the regime faces a substantial problem of what might be called “the boy who cried wolf” syndrome. In other words, “In 2006 when the authorities propagated that another satellite had been successfully launched and the song of ‘General Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’ was ringing out across the heavens, the people thought it had to be a lie because there were no evidence for it whatsoever. Therefore, we are all pretty doubtful about the recent launch as well.”
According to U.S. and South Korean monitoring agencies, Gwangmyungsung-3 is indeed currently orbiting the Earth as North Korea claims. To put it another way, North Korea’s own determination to limit freedom of information from the outside is undermining its own propaganda about the success of the launch.
But in any case, the source concluded, whether the satellite is up in space or not is not particularly important. "The relationship between the authorities and the people is like a drop of oil in a pool of water," he said.